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Ohio State men’s cross country sets sights on Big Ten Championship following ‘unusual’ season

Courtesy of Ohio State athletic department

Ups, downs and an ‘unusual’ injury define OSU men’s cross country season so far.

“It’s the first time in my coaching tenure that I’ve ever run into an impact injury in cross country,” men’s coach Brice Allen said. “That’s usually something that’s reserved for football.”

Senior runner Chris Fallon was involved in a pileup near the beginning of the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational last week, resulting in a hyper-extended knee and a stress fracture. Fallon’s experience in Madison seems to be a microcosm of the Buckeyes’ season so far.

It started off well but ran into some difficulty.

The team began the year by winning their 5k warm up race in Kettering, Ohio where they took five of the top ten spots in a small field.

Allen said he was happy to win but remained realistic about the situation.

“Our season opener was just that, it was an opener,” he said.

The Buckeyes then took an unofficial victory in their next meet at Michigan State. While the event was not scored, if the normal point structure had been used the team would have come in first place.

Allen’s goals for the team going into its next event, Notre Dame Invitational, were to be in the top 10 with a team score of about 270.

The squad narrowly missed these marks, finishing 13th with a team score of 296. However, four runners recorded times under 25 minutes. This is a team goal that was not met two weeks before at Michigan State where even the top Buckeye runner, Donny Roys, only ran a 25:01.

“We need to be able to run in the 24 minutes over 8k on a consistent basis,” Allen said.

Despite a slightly disappointing finish at Notre Dame, Allen felt the team was on track before they headed to Madison.

“Notre Dame, I felt, was a continual improvement. We were moving in the right direction going into Wisconsin,” he said.

The plan for that event disintegrated with Fallon’s injury.

“The team was told to execute a plan that involved following me through the first 5k of the race,” Fallon said. “With my unfortunate demise 600 meters into the race, a lot of the younger guys didn’t know what to do. The race plan immediately fell apart.”

The Buckeyes went on to finish 39th out of 45 teams.

Allen attempted to downplay the effect of Fallon’s injury moving forward.

“That’s part of sport and we just gotta roll with the punches and expect to have setbacks throughout the season,” he said. “What this team does with that [Fallon’s injury] from this point forward I think is going to better define who they are as a team.”

Even without freak accidents to contend with, cross country still takes a toll on the athletes over the course of the season.

“The sport is very difficult and taxing,” freshman runner Nick Pupino said.

With the regular season wrapped up, the team is now focused on the Big Ten Championships, which is scheduled for Oct. 28 and will take place in East Lansing Mich.

Despite the ups and downs experienced so far, the team is attempting to remain focused on the objectives it set at the beginning of the season.

“Our goals are, have been and will be the same,” Allen said. “They are to be a conference contender, a regional power and a national representative.”  

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